Issue: Spring 2010
Written by Brandon Donahue
“The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.“ – Jung, 1921
On November 18, 2009, American artist Jeanne-Claude died as a result of complications due to a ruptured brain aneurysm. While deeply saddened, her husband, partner and collaborator, Christo, is committed to honoring a promise they made to each other many years ago — to continue their art. With two projects in progress — “Over the River” and “The Mastaba Project” — Christo is dedicated to completing them, as Jeanne-Claude would wish. Christo and Jeanne-Claude created unique and inspiring pieces together for 51 years, share the same birthday, and met in Paris, France in 1958.
Back when I was an art student, my teacher, a man named Hutch, would have me sit in the back of the class and flip through his collection of art magazines, journals and books for inspiration. One particular day I came across an article about the creative team Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The project discussed in the article was titled “Surrounded Islands,” and I stared at the photos in awe. I was young, small-town, and had never seen anything like it before. It was the kind of imagery that could make you want to give up being an artist in the face of such talent, while at the same time inspire you to begin projects you had only dreamt about.
Since my first encounter with the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, I was hooked. I scanned headlines for announcements about their projects and researched completed installations, always finding inspiration from their creations. A few years ago, I saw that Christo and Jeanne-Claude were planning a second installation in Colorado. Their first was “Valley Curtain,” a brilliant, orange “curtain” suspended 365 feet high, and stretching 1,250 feet wide. Located near Rifle, the piece took 28 months to complete, and was disassembled just 28 hours after it was erected. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s second project in Colorado is titled “Over the River.” Nearly six miles of panels of luminous fabric will be suspended high above 40 miles of the Arkansas River between Salida and Cañon City. This installation is scheduled to run for two weeks during the summer in 2013, at the earliest. At the website, http://www.overtheriverinfo.com, there is updated information about the project and opportunities for geting involved. The website states that “Over the River” is intended to “enhance Colorado’s growing prominence in the art world and provide a gift that all Coloradans can enjoy.”
I’ve always had a difficult time relating the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude to people who are unfamiliar with them. There is such poetry to their creations; images or words alone do not do them justice. The installations speak to every sense. When the “Over the River” project is completed, you’ll have a chance to go experience it for yourself, to let it speak to you — and then spend the rest of your life trying to describe it to others.
“We have love and tenderness for our own life because we know it will not last. That quality of love and tenderness, we wish to donate it, endow our work with it as an additional aesthetic quality. The fact that the work does not remain creates an urgency to see it. For instance, if someone were to tell you, ‘Oh, look on the right, there is a rainbow.’ You will never answer, ‘I will look at it tomorrow.’” – Jeanne-Claude
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